Report shows San Francisco’s AAPI residents experience high poverty, chronic disease rates

Bed-ridden Bao Qi Mo, 85, in the single-resident occupancy (SRO) room he shares with his family in San Francisco's Chinatown. High poverty rates and over-crowding have led to a deterioration of living conditions for some of the city's Asian American residents.  (Photo credit: Brant Ward, The San Francisco Chronicle)
Bed-ridden Bao Qi Mo, 85, in the single-resident occupancy (SRO) room he shares with his family in San Francisco’s Chinatown. High poverty rates and over-crowding have led to a deterioration of living conditions for some of the city’s Asian American residents. (Photo credit: Brant Ward / The Chronicle)

Jessica Kwong (@JessicaGKwong) of the San Francisco Examiner summarizes a recent report issued by the Asian Pacific Islander Council titled “Asian and Pacific Islander Health and Wellbeing: A San Francisco Neighborhood Analysis”. The report published several findings regarding the city’s Asian American population that challenge the Model Minority Myth, which asserts that Asian Americans are by and large “doing fine”.

Contrary to stereotypes, the Asian Pacific Islander Council’s report reveals that in San Francisco, 14% of Asian Americans live in poverty — lower than other racial groups — but that the population size of poor Asian Americans has grown by 44% in the last few years. As  also reflected with an in-depth look at national AAPI unemployment trends, the unemployment rate for Asian Americans was also 1.5x greater than city-wide averages. Many of those impoverished Asian Americans live in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where over-crowding has led to appalling living conditions for some families who are forced to squeeze entire families into rooms designed for single residents. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that San Francisco’s Chinatown — an ethnic enclave just under 1.5 square miles in area — was home to over 100,000 Chinese Americans in 2000, or two-thirds of San Francisco’s total Chinese American population.

The over-crowding of poor Asian Americans in Chinatown has become a subsequent strain on local social services, and has also contributed to high rates of mental illness and other chronic diseases. Yet these social problems are rarely addressed in the larger discourse on the city’s Asian American population; instead, most residents assume that San Francisco’s Asian American population are comprised predominantly of the city’s wealthy elite.

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I’m a runner, and I write an AAPI political advocacy blog. How could I not be all about this campaign?

In California, the API prisoner community has more than doubled in the last twenty years, and men and women of several Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnicities — including Samoans, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians — have particularly high arrest rates in California. Yet, many of these men and women are racially classified as “Other” in that state, resulting in our community’s high incarceration rate being often overlooked in social programs aimed at preventing recidivism (all information from APSC website).

The Asian Prisoner Support Committee — supported by Chinese for Affirmative Action — is in the final days of a crowdsourced campaign to raise money for their program, ROOTS (Restoring Our Original Selves). ROOTS is a weekly class held in San Quentin (and also includes an offshoot program held in Oakland) for current and formerly incarcerated AAPI men and women; it seeks to improve knowledge and awareness of AAPI history and culture through guest lectures, leadership classes, and workshops. The purpose of ROOTS is to improve integration of current and former AAPI prisoners into the community through education and healing.

A team of eight runners are running at a local race to try and raise awareness and funds to buy teaching materials for the ROOTS program. They have two days to raise an additional $2000.

Running for heart health and to advance the education of Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies and to address mass incarceration and recidivism rates? Where is the down-side?

If you have a few extra dollars kicking around, please donate to this campaign. Why? Because it is awesome.